2018 taught me that spending extended amounts of time alone can not only be largely maddening, but sometimes absolutely necessary. In the conclusion of my last post, I discussed my year of isolation. It was quiet, it was prolonged, but it was also a hidden blessing that I never could have foreseen.
You see, all of that solitude made me uncomfortable. I do not like feeling uncomfortable, so at first, I did not gracefully take this period of seclusion in stride. Aside from spiritually squirming, I was often noticeably physically restless. Many a night was spent thrashing around in my bed, wishing that morning would come. But often, I would mourn the rising of the sun because it meant that I had to get up and face yet another day of seeming nothingness.
However, my days were far from being filled with “nothing”. No, from sunup to sundown, my days were jam packed with wall to wall opportunity. Although I may not have always been able to do the things I particularly would have liked to do or the chance to have the experiences I would have rather had, circumstance left my agenda wide open for whatever God felt I needed to do.
At any given moment in time, I could freely pencil in an appointment to align myself with His will. Irrespective of my initial attitude towards it, my solitude bestowed me with the priceless gifts of lessened responsibility and obligation to others, the luxury to invest as much time as possible to my own personal development, the space to get to know myself better, and enough boredom to willingly follow the whims and inspirations that struck a harmonious chord in my soul.
The yielded results were hardly expected.
Do Onto Yourself As You Do Onto Others
When it comes to my relationship with other people, I have always had a servant’s heart. Now, I must admit, I haven’t been flawless in my ability to be consistently demonstrative of this, but I think those who know me well know that I truly do want the best for all people and would do whatever I could to help others live a better life.
The only problem with this is that my desire to help others has not always played out very well. Whilst I’ve never had the mind to do good deeds with the intent of getting something in return, the people in my life could tell you that I’ve had an alarming knack for watching my benevolent deeds transform into a detriment to my own well being.
In the interest of brevity, I won’t go into specifics at this time, but I will say that in many of my efforts to help others, I have sometimes been taken advantage of. For some people, I would say it wasn’t necessarily intentional, but more of a symptom of them simply not knowing how to help themselves. In other cases, it has been made quite apparent that my generosity and patience was merely blood to a leech, for a lack of a better comparison.
Like you, there definitely were periods of time in my life that are now bittersweet, circumstances in which my willingness to offer up my energy, time, resources, etc. came at a steep personal cost. There have been times when my willingness to put others first caused significant setbacks in my own life that I am still scrambling to remedy.
I don’t regret the things I’ve done.
At the end of the day, my objective was met: People were benefited. If faced with the same circumstances today—even knowing all that I know now— I am unsure that I would be able to choose to do anything differently, for I only have the desire to do what is right in any given moment. That being said, 2018 was the first year in such a long while, that I did not find myself in these well intentioned, but otherwise compromising positions.
As isolating as this year may have been, I was finally able to take a deep breath and heal from years of personal pain. Without the distraction of having to worry about other people or having to question anyone’s motives, it was possible to truly take care of and learn how to care for myself. I gained improved clarity to not only see my current state clearly, but to better identify what I needed to do moving forward.
Of all the ways in which I learned to better care for myself, the most instrumental (if not most difficult) lesson was the ability to forgive oneself.
Although I had learned how to forgive those who had trespassed against me or my loved ones long ago, 2018 was a year of exploring how to forgive myself. After sifting through the archives of my memory and identifying all of the mistakes I’ve personally made to end up where I then found myself, it was unspeakably difficult to release the disappointment, regret, and guilt that soon cropped up. While some people may say that it is unproductive to look back at the past, I strongly disagree with such sentiments.
Within every unlearned lesson is an error that is bound to be repeated.
Weeding The Garden
When I started this year, I wanted 2018 to be a year of purging. I had struggled to find happiness and stability for long enough, so if there was anything lurking in the annals of my past that was clogging up my ability to jump over these final hurdles, I needed to locate and dig it up—by the roots. I could not afford to leave something destructive lingering in my psyche only for it to drag me backwards later. For whatever ground I gained this year, I wanted to keep it all.
Identifying my mistakes wasn’t the hard part. Getting over them, however, was. It can be very difficult to change the person you are, to make significant and positive progress towards becoming your best version, and then be called to remember who you once were. You don’t want to accept what has now become unrecognizable because it can come with such tremendous shame. How could I be so stupid? Why did I think that was the best way to handle that?
The truth is, for the most part, we only ever do what we genuinely think is best at any given moment. That’s the downside to not being omniscient; there is simply no way to have a fully unobstructed view of our life or our role in it. All we can do is take the knowledge we have and make the best decisions we can based on what appears in our line of sight. It isn’t possible to stick a landing 100% of the time, but as long as we are walking in love, respect, and wisdom, we should be able to sleep through the night knowing we did the very best we could do.
As I discovered, the key to forgiving yourself is realizing that you’ve messed up, but can still do better. It isn’t the end of the game just because the quarter or inning has ended. Take a look at your plays, make the necessary adjustments, and finish the season stronger than you started.
It wasn’t easy at all, but with lots of effort, many prayers, and countless tears, I eventually accepted that I am simply not as perfect as I wish I was—but that its okay. I was finally able to forgive myself for the bad choices and silly mistakes that I have made throughout my life.
I then spent time doing damage control, cleaning up after myself. It gives me tremendous comfort to know that I was able to successfully glue the majority of the broken pieces back together.
And so, as the year ends, I can confidently say that I at least made it to the playoffs.
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